If Walls Could Talk

Verve_2 Can I get a little help here? With the permission of my wife, I am posting a photograph of the wallpaper that's adorned our downstairs washroom for some time.

When's it from? Who's the designer or manufacturer? Who'd have their bathroom papered with faux bookshelves stocked with such titles as Sapho, Sade and Les Fleurs du Mal.

Other than the Rubins.

Truth is, my wife bought new wallpaper 18 years ago when we moved into the house, and her ambitions to do the room in more modern stripes caused arguments that have flared up during dinner hour for almost two decades.

A compromise, where we'd preserve a tiny portion of the faux bookshelf, and encase it in a frame fixed to the wall, was some how forgotten a few years back, and I would appreciate it if no one reminded her.

But this wallpaper was going to stay up even if it required my lavishing her with trinkets. It's a window into history and the day in April 1988, after putting 600 miles on a rental car, when I pulled into this crooked, 1871 gardener's cottage in the woods.

The man who owned the house, Louis Loewenstein, was sitting by the fireplace, speaking in German to his long-dead mother. His wife explained how the mantel was carved English walnut he'd picked on the docks of Philadelphia. For 50 years he'd been the assistant to the general manager of Wanamaker's downtown. His wife had worked in the millinery department, which accounted for all those fabulous hat boxes in the basement.

On the real bookshelves in the living room stood copies of books by Dos Passos, Hemingway, Faulkner, Fitzgerald. On a hunch, I opened a few. First editions. Off by itself was a line drawing in some sort of ink - a portrait of a man. The inscription, if memory serves, read "Louis, thanks for everything. ... Cole."

Mrs. Loewenstein told how her husband had been stage manager for Anything Goes in New York a few years out of Princeton, before he moved to Philadelphia and spent a half century helping men run the department store, then slowly slipped away by the fire. I think of him every time I use the water closet.

So, I would love to know from someone a little more about the people whose house we live in. Someone recognize this wallpaper? Anyone?

Posted 02/07/2007 01:21:51 PM

Hi, I'm A milliner. Do you still have the old hat boxes? Johnnye

Posted 02/07/2007 01:33:42 PM

You might find some help here: http://www.hannahstreasures.com/wallpaperforsale.htm There's an e-mail address where if you sent her the picture, she might recognize it. If not, you'll get a good look at how bad it could have been.

daniel rubin
Posted 02/07/2007 01:51:48 PM

she took the hat boxes with her. for her hats. they were very nice boxes.

Tom Goodman
Posted 02/07/2007 04:46:41 PM

But what about the hats, Dan? Were they nice, too?

daniel rubin
Posted 02/07/2007 04:59:30 PM

ah, the hats. i was not so bold as to open the boxes while inspecting the basement.

Dan F.
Posted 02/07/2007 05:21:09 PM

I heard about this blog on NPR Radio a couple of hours ago. I'm glad I checked it out. I will be a frequent visitor.

Posted 02/08/2007 07:29:39 AM

This brings back nice memories! But guess we spent so much time on the swing we never made it to the bathroom - which I now regret!

Posted 02/09/2007 03:31:13 PM

I've been hanging wallpaper for 30 years and although I've hung a lot of faux bookcase patterns, I've never seen this one. Most are stocked with the classics. And I've NEVER hung bookcase paper in a bathroom but I have hung clown paper in a kitchen. Don't ask. I don't know how well laid out the pattern is....Is a full shelf cisible at the top of the wall? If so, you can run a molding below the top shelf, maybe a small crown above it, paint the rest of the room maybe with a colorwash using colors that work with the colors in the paper. Then you'll have a new bathroom with a really cool border at the top of the wall. Actually, you could create a border at chair rail height if there is a "shelf" at the appropriate level. Just don't try this yourself. Get a second mortgage then call me.

daniel rubin
Posted 02/09/2007 03:48:08 PM

One of the slickest bits of product placement I've seen. Nice one!

Posted 02/09/2007 03:56:19 PM

I keep getting altruism and capitalism confused.

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